With the savage violence being reported daily from the Middle East, and with news of the recent Christian martyrs in Libya, what to do and how to respond has been a hotly debated topic. In most conversations, the only points of debate are how much military power needs to be exerted and how swiftly these powers should act. While this is expected of mainstream political players which are essentially characterized by their use of force, such attitudes are becoming increasingly more common in Christian circles.
Finally, the truth comes out. At long last, we now know why Joe Carter is not and can never be a Christian libertarian – because he is a conservative Christian warmonger.
According to his profile at the Acton Institute PowerBlog:
Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, online editor for First Things, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator (Crossway).
Although I am familiar with the Acton Institute, and appreciate its defense of the free market, I had never heard of Joe Carter until I was directed to a series of posts he wrote attacking the idea that one can be a Christian libertarian. If you are interested in reading them, see here, here, here, and here. If you are interested in reading some responses, see here, here, here, and here.
I never bothered to respond to Carter because (1) I am much too busy writing other things, (2) I have already made the case for Christian libertarianism in a lecture I gave at the Mises Institute on "Is Libertarianism Compatible with Religion?" and (3) because I have a number of friends who are in fact Christian libertarians: David Theroux of the Independent Institute, Jacob Hornberger of the Future of Freedom Foundation, William Anderson of Frostburg State University, Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute, Andrew Napolitano of Fox News, Shawn Rittenour and Jeff Herbener of Grove City College, Guido Hulsmann of the University of Angers, Lew Rockwell and Tom Woods of the Mises Institute, Norman Horn of LibertarianChristians.com, Timothy Terrell of Wofford College, Gerard Casey of University College Dublin, Jason Jewell of Faulkner University, Robert Murphy of Free Advice, Gary North of GaryNorth.com, and Jeff Tucker of Laissez Faire Books (my apologies to any of my friends I have inadvertently forgotten).
But it’s not just Christian libertarianism that Carter has a problem with.
One post of his that I do feel compelled to respond to is "How to Love Liberty More Than a Libertarian Economist." The economist in question is Brian Caplan, a Professor of Economics at George Mason University who blogs at EconLog. In his attack on libertarianism, Carter refers to a post by Caplan titled "My Beautiful Bubble." To this post of Caplan, the conservative Steve Sailer replied: "Of course, if there were a big war, it would be nice to be defended by all those dreary American you despise. And, the irony is, they’d do it, too, just because you are an American." Caplan replied to Sailer’s comment in another post titled "Reciprocity and Irony: A View from My Bubble." In his post, Carter reprinted the concluding part of Caplan’s reply in full:
- I pay good money for these protective services. So I don’t see why my American defenders deserve any more gratitude than the countless other people – American and foreign – I trade with.
- Since my American defenders are paid by heavy taxes whether I like it or not, they deserve far less gratitude than my genuine trading partners, who scrupulously respect the sanctity of my Bubble.
- In fact, I think my American "defenders" owe me an apology. My best guess is that, on net, the U.S. armed forces increase the probability that a big war will adversely affect me. While they deter some threats, they provoke many others. If I lived in a Bubble in Switzerland (happily neutral since 1815), at least I’d know that I was getting some value for my tax dollars.
I take no sides in any dispute between Carter and Caplan or Caplan and Sailer. I only mention all of the above to provide the necessary context for Carter’s closing paragraphs:
What Caplan misses in Sailor’s criticism is that the "dreary Americans" are not protecting him because of the pittance he pays in taxes. They are protecting him because they love liberty more than he does.
Caplan’s libertarianism leads him (rightly, I believe) to embrace pacifism. As he says, the foreign policy that follows from libertarian principles is not isolationism, but opposition to all warfare. The [sic] is internally consistent yet self-defeating since the conclusion is that libertarianism means loving liberty only to the point that you are not required to defend it by means of warfare.
In contrast, I – like many other veterans in America – served my country (fifteen years in the Marine Corps) precisely because I loved freedom. I loved it so much that I was willing to sacrifice some of my own freedom, or even my life if necessary, to secure it for myself, for my nation, and for libertarian pacifists like Caplan. He is able to afford the luxury of living in his beautiful bubble because other Americans have bought that liberty for him. For over two centuries, American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have paid the cost necessary to allow people like him to live freely. We have provided him with the safety and security he needs to crawl off in his elite bubble and forget that people like us exist.
Caplan is free to move to Switzerland, though I suspect he’ll keep his Bubble in Arlington, Virginia. As a libertarian economics professor at George Mason he’s smart enough to do the calculus. He knows that his optimal choice is to stay put and keep free-riding on the benefits provided by other people – whether liberal, conservative, or libertarian – who love liberty more than he does.
I want to focus on Carter’s remarks about the military in the first and third paragraphs because most of the statements he makes are typical of conservatives, and especially conservative Christian warmongers.
According to the Department of Defense, "All four active services met or exceeded their numerical accession goals for fiscal year 2011." Here are the actual numbers:
Army – 64,019 accessions, with a goal of 64,000
Navy – 33,444 accessions, with a goal of 33,400
Marine Corps – 29,773 accessions, with a goal of 29,750
Air Force – 28,518 accessions, with a goal of 28,515
This means that 155,754 Americans joined the military in fiscal year 2011 (Oct. 1, 2010–Sept. 30, 2011). Does anyone besides Joe Carter actually believe that even a majority of those who joined the military did so because they loved liberty more than Brian Caplan? Could it rather have something to do with being talked into it by lying military recruiters, the billions the military spends on advertising, the No Child Left Behind Act, the promise of free money for college, the desire to get away from home, the chance to kill foreigners for real instead of just in video games, revenge for 9/11, the adventure, the world travel, family tradition, or the generous retirement benefits? I suspect the main reason is the economy; i.e., the poverty draft.
Sorry, Joe, you – like many other veterans in America – didn’t serve your country. You served the state. You helped maintain a global empire of troops and bases. You helped carry out an evil interventionist foreign policy. You didn’t defend anyone’s freedoms. You didn’t preserve the American way of life. You didn’t uphold the Constitution. You didn’t protect the nation. You didn’t "uphold the freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for future generations" like the lying Marine Corps recruiting postcard says that was sent to high school students. Your death wouldn’t have secured anything. Your death would have been in vain.
And as for American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines paying the cost for over two centuries to allow libertarians to live freely – instead of defending our freedoms, they have jeopardized our freedoms. But don’t take my word for it; take it from VMI grad and Army reservist Jacob Hornberger: "The Troops Don’t Defend Our Freedoms" and "An Open Letter to the Troops: You’re Not Defending Our Freedoms."
Oh, U.S. troops have been busy for over two centuries, but they have been busy doing more intervening in foreign countries than defending Americans’ freedoms. Things like disaster relief, humanitarian aid, nation building, regime change, assassinations, forcibly opening markets, bombing, invading, occupying, maiming, torturing, killing, peacekeeping, enforcing UN resolutions, preemptive strikes, spreading democracy at the point of a gun, garrisoning the planet with troops and bases, training foreign armies, rebuilding infrastructure, reviving public services, unleashing civil unrest, policing the world, intervening in other countries, and fighting foreign wars.
Americans today face the triple threat of the warfare/national security/police state, largely due to conservatives in Congress (fully supported by conservative Christians outside of Congress) during the Bush years not overturning all the evils of the federal government that were already in place and adding much more evil of their own
One reason why conservative Christians like Joe Carter are so different from, and so puzzled by, Christian libertarians is because they are conservative Christian warmongers who worship the golden calf of the military.
Originally published on LewRockwell.com on May 2, 2012.